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Former Blackhawks star Chris Chelios to enter U.S. Hockey Hall

Chris Chelios acknowledges ovatifrom Hawks fans during night his honor last season.  |  Getty Images

Chris Chelios acknowledges the ovation from Hawks fans during a night in his honor last season. | Getty Images

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Updated: November 2, 2011 5:32PM

The enshrinement process of former Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios — ‘‘the godfather of USA Hockey,’’ according to former St. Louis Blues star Keith Tkachuk — officially has started.

Chelios, a Chicago native, isn’t eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto for a couple of more years. On Monday, though, he was part of a five-member class that was named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Chelios was joined by Tkachuk, former Hawks defenseman Gary Suter, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider and broadcaster Mike ‘‘Doc’’ Emrick in the Class of 2011. They will be honored at ceremony in October in Chicago.

‘‘It seems to me, playing with him, he’s done everything,’’ Tkachuk said of Chelios. ‘‘He was one of the first really elite USA hockey players. .  .  . He’s a guy who lays it all on the ice. He’s the complete package, and he’s been around forever.’’

Chelios, a three-time Stanley Cup champion and three-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman, finally called it quits last August after 26 seasons. That was after short stints with the Wolves and Atlanta Thrashers.

Chelios started his career with the Montreal Canadiens, then spent eight seasons with the Hawks before being traded in 1999 to the Red Wings, for whom he played until 2009. He now works for the Red Wings,
assisting in the development of their prospects.

‘‘I don’t want to jump the gun, but I really enjoy teaching,’’ said Chelios, who played in 1,651 regular-season games in his NHL career and represented the United States in four Olympics. ‘‘I think of all the great coaches I’ve had. Hopefully, I can use that and help these kids in our system to make them better players.’’

Chelios and Suter were defense partners with the Hawks in the late 1990s.
Suter was the first U.S. player to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie in 1986 and won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.

‘‘When I got traded to Chicago, it was really a dream come true,’’ Suter said. ‘‘I was from Wisconsin, so in a lot of ways it was like getting traded home. I was really excited about that, plus I was teamed up with Chris Chelios.’’

NOTE: The Wolves said former Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish will be their next head coach. MacTavish, who compiled a 301-252-47-56 record with the Oilers from 2000 to 2009, replaces Don Lever , who wasn’t brought back after last season. MacTavish played in 1,093 games during his 19-year NHL career and was part of four Stanley Cup champions — with the Oilers in 1987, 1988 and 1990 and with the New York Rangers in 1994.

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